Category Archive: Submissions

  1. The Support Factor & giving thanks

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    I want to ask you a personal question and it’s nothing to do with your sex life. or how much you earn. I want to ask you something even more personal than that.

    Have you told yourself that you’re not good enough today? Have you told yourself that you’re a failure? Have you decided not to do something because you’re scared?

    If you have you’re not alone. I did it as well.

    I thought about turning down a job because I was worried I wasn’t good enough to do it. This was after they’d offered me the job.

    Even after an editor has not only said ‘yes’ to publishing my book but offered me contracts for two more, I have a crippling fear that I am not good enough to be an author. I constantly question the things that I write, whether the ideas are unique enough, whether anyone will want to read my book, whether I’m going to be able to cope when I get a horrible 1-star review.

    My understanding through talking to others is that this lack of confidence is not uncommon in women, particularly for sensitive, creative types like writers. I see brilliant women cut themselves down, belittle their talents and generally talk to themselves the way that no one should ever talk to another human being, let alone themselves. Why?

    Unfortunately I don’t have an answer for why this happens. All I can do is share how I’ve managed to get the confidence to continue writing, submitting, going for promotions at work and generally doing other stuff that scares the sh*t out of me.

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    This is an actual photo from my wedding – my sister (who hates public speaking) gave an impromptu speech about our wonderful friendship and I grabbed her hand because I knew she was probably terrified. I’m so glad the photographer was there to capture this moment, the photo was completely unplanned.

    Want to know my secret? I’ve learned to ask for support.

    I have people in my life who are supportive, who don’t think my dreams are crazy and who are willing not only to help, but are also happy to put up with me when I have a meltdown about the impossibility of it all. They’re a shoulder to cry on, they give me a kick up the butt when I need it (I can thank my husband for this one), they tell me the truth about my work, they clap their hands when I achieve and sometimes they just leave me the heck alone (also, a big thanks to my husband for this one.)

    But I have had to ask for this support. This has not been easy, I dislike asking for things because I question whether or not I deserve what I’m asking for.

    One thing I’ve realised is that people are almost always willing to help if you reach out. Sometimes we have to remember that we can be our harshest critics, and that others are a lot kinder to us than we are to ourselves.

    I guess what I’m trying to say (in my usual rambling fashion) is that you’re not alone. You can ask for help, you do deserve support and success, and most importantly yes, you are good enough.

    Don’t hesitate to ask a question of another writer over Twitter or Facebook or email, don’t think that you’re too early (or too late) in your journey to join a writer’s group/attend a conference/submit your work. Don’t let your fear stop you from working towards your dream. You can do it.

    On that note, here are a few people I would like to thank:

    My husband – for everything from doing the dishes, to putting up with my cranky editing-cave BS, to letting me ugly cry when I need it.

    My family – my little sister for being a shining beam of positive throughout my entire life, to Mum for reading my very first manuscript and telling me it was wonderful, for Dad for being so proud and showing me that real men have emotions.

    Nan and Nonno – although you’re no longer here I feel your influence like a comforting blanket. Thank you for teaching me so much in the time I had with you both. It could never have been enough time.

    The ladies at MRWG – you guys rock! I am so eternally grateful for the support, encouragement and belief you have given me…and also for all the chocolate rewards.

    Violet – my friend, beta-reader, BS detector and eradicator of single tears and chin tilts. Thank you for your unwavering honesty and enthusiasm.

    Lauren and Kari  – two gorgeous ladies who’ve critiqued my work with gentleness, care and enthusiasm. I’m hanging out to watch you both get published.

    These wonderful Australian romance writers whose work and attitude has inspired me to no end – Anna Campbell, Annie West, Anne Gracie, Louise Reynolds, Rachel Bailey, Eden Summers, Madeline Ash, Rachel Johns, Amy Andrews, Nicola Marsh and many, many others.

    I know it’s hard to put yourself out there, it’s hard to believe you’ll get to where you want to be. But you can, and there are always people to help you no matter how alone you feel.

  2. The Truth About Romance Writing Competitions

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    I have debated writing this post for a while, with the main reason for my concern being that I would never want to put anyone off entering a romance writing competition. Romance writing competitions are a fantastic way to get feedback as a new writer, they allow you to get an unbiased opinion especially if you’re not part of a writer’s group. They can help identify areas you might need to work on, and they can call out your strengths so you know where you’re doing well.

    However, like judging anything artistic, it’s completely subjective. I wanted to highlight this through my own personal experience of entering romance writing competitions.

    As an unpublished author I had entered three writing competitions through romance writing organisations; one as a submission for an anthology, and two competitions for opening chapters/partials. My short story did well – although it didn’t make it into the anthology – and I got varied scores from three judges. But, overall they were encouraging and provided me with things to work on. Perfect.

    The second competition I entered did not go as well. At this stage I entered the very first version of Love en Pointe (first three chapters or so) – it was my baby, my very first manuscript and I had no idea if it was any good. Only two weeks after I entered, I got the request from Harlequin KISS (timeline here). I sent of the whole thing, with the exact same opening chapters as I had entered into the competition.

    In the time the competition judging was taking place I received a life-changing email from the editor. She said she loved my voice, loved the story and would like me to attempt some revisions. I did it, of course, and was thrilled.

    Two weeks after receiving this request I got my scores back from the competition. They were pretty terrible, I didn’t come dead last but I was getting close to the bottom. The scores were not the worst of it, the comments in my judging form insinuated I didn’t know anything about the genre, that my book had nothing that would make people want to read on, that my writing was stilted, that my characters had no redeeming features…the list goes on.

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    Coffee and cake are known cures for competition/submission rejection rage – image source.

    Honestly, if I had not had some positive reinforcement from my editor at that point, there’s a high likelihood I would have believed the comments in the judging score-sheets. I may have even quit on the spot…at least for a little while.

    This same story came to provide me my first sale and it got me a two-book deal with Harlequin Mills & Boon. My editor believes in my writing skill and thankfully now, so do I. Looking back on that first draft of Love en Pointe, I will absolutely say it was rough, it had problems, it needed a hell of a lot of work. But there was a shining nugget of potential that my editor was able to sniff out and she worked with me to reveal that potential.

    After licking my wounds I entered another writing competition later in 2012 but with a different writing association. I entered two submissions which took home 5th and 3rd place, but I still had things to work on thanks to the great critiques in the scoring sheet.

    The reason I’ve written this post is to say (in a very long-winded way): competitions are not the be all end all for aspiring writers. If you enter a competition and you don’t score well, don’t give up! If someone writes something nasty in your score sheet, don’t listen to it.

    Take the constructive criticism and use it to make your writing better, take the compliments and let them boost your confidence. Leave any personal comments aside, they will not help you. Use the competition as a way of getting used to people judging your work because it will happen when you get published, but don’t let it get it you down.

    I hope that this has helped some of you. To anyone who’s felt like giving up after receiving a judges comments: don’t! Competitions are a great way for you to grow and learn, but before you enter one make a promise to yourself that no matter the result you won’t give up.

  3. The Call

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    I am thrilled to announce that on Friday the 13th of December I was offered a two-book deal with Harlequin Mills & Boon for my ballerina/footballer story – Love en Pointe. Needless to say I’m over the moon, and the wonderful messages that people have left me on Twitter, Facebook and on the Harlequin Forums has been surreal. I’m so grateful.

    Part of the tradition in the romance writing world is the “Call Story” – that is the story of how you came to receive  that fateful call from an editor to say yes we want to buy your book.

    Here’s mine…

    In 2012 I had a very big year, I married my best friend in the whole wide world after being together since we were 19 years old. On our honeymoon I took along a bunch of steamy books because I thought that’s what one should read on a honeymoon. On that trip I rediscovered my love of romance books, I even managed to find a newsagent in Fiji who sold Mills and Boon. I must have read at least 10 of them in that two weeks. A tiny flicker of inspiration started on that trip, and I decided that I wanted to write a Mills & Boon book.

    After months of scribbling a little here and there I wasn’t getting anywhere. I kept writing a little bit, scrapping it, writing something else and never making it more than a couple of pages. The problem was I was trying to write and edit at the same time.

    Then, on day one of NanoWriMo in 2012, without any idea what to write I decided to jump in with two feet. About two and a half weeks in I was regretting it big time, but this weird and wonderful story about a ballerina and a footballer was unfolding and I couldn’t stop it. This is where my first manuscript, Love en Pointe, was born.

    Keep Calm Write Something

    I didn’t make 50k, but in February (while trying to deal with losing my grandfather) I finished it. I sat on the damn thing til May while I learned to “edit” and wondered what on earth I was doing. I happened to see that the lovely Nicola Marsh was holding a pitch contest for Harlequin KISS on her blog and it was closing that afternoon. Like with Nano I thought ‘what the hell’ and pitched my story. To my absolute shock I got a request (in fact I was so shocked I accidentally deleted the email and then had to retrieve it to respond to the editor).

    3 rounds of revisions and about eight months later my story was looking better (and so different I wasn’t quite sure how I got a request in the first place) and I submitted the final changes a few weeks ago. Cut to Friday, I had the day from hell at work (I work in corporate communications for a bank and it’s pretty darn insane) and I collapsed onto the couch with my husband while we ate takeaway because I was too exhausted to cook. I saw the editor tweet that she had a special call to make and I promised myself I would not get excited, I didn’t even point it out to my husband who was sitting next to me. But I put my phone on the coffee table in front of me (just in case) and stared at it until it actually rang…I may or may not have magical powers.

    I then babbled like an idiot to the editor, cried, called my mum, cried again and then my husband dragged me out for a celebratory champagne…and here I am 

    The tentative date for Love en Pointe (or whatever it will be names, not sure I get to keep the title yet) is August 2014, I have another round of minor revisions to do. Then I have to write another book because they have generously offered me a two book deal…I can’t quite believe it.

  4. 10 things to do while waiting to hear from an editor

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    I normally do lists with 5 things, hence why this post is categorised under “5 things”. Why 5? A list of 5 things is manageable, when you complete 3 things you’re already over half way, and 5 has always struck me as a solid number. A building block, you might call it.

    Why then, if 5 is so great, is this a list of 10 things?

    When you’re waiting to hear back from an editor it feels like time moves at a snails pace…worse, even. What’s slower than a snail? That’s how badly the hours seem to drag. The constant checking of your email, Twitter (just in case the editor your stalking following announces that they have a ‘special call’ to make), checking your phone for missed calls with London or New York numbers…

    You need a list of more than 5 things because you need to be as busy as humanly possible to keep from going insane…or is that just me? Currently, I’m waiting to hear back on four projects: the revisions for my category romance, slush submissions for my novella, and two short stories submitted to anthologies. Trust me, the more things you can do to occupy yourself the better.

    Your sanity will thank you.

    The questionnaire

    1. Get working on SOMETHING ELSE – a new project is always a great distraction. Try planning out a new story or dust off something you’ve worked on previously.
    2. Keep Writing – this might seem like the same as point one, but writing doesn’t have to mean working on projects that you’ll  submit to an editor. I enjoy blogging (I actually started blogging about perfume recently, that’s another passion of mine), but you might want to dabble in a different medium like poetry, non fiction etc. Just keep those writerly muscles moving.
    3. Pick up a book you’ve been dying to read – I saved Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins for when I had finished my revisions. Getting lost in a good book is a great way to distract you from the dreaded wait.
    4. Reconnect with the people you neglected whilst retreating into your writing cave – remember those people whose faces filled your photographs…yeah? You should probably call them.
    5. Clean the house – I’m not joking, cleaning is a great distraction and if you’re anything like me this is one area that gets neglected when you’re on a deadline.
    6. Exercise – see point #6
    7. Get involved in the writing community – there are plenty of ways to do this, join a writer’s group, volunteer with your local writing organisation, find a critique partner or join a forum. If you’re going to wait, you may as well have company.
    8. Do SOMETHING ELSE – when you’re stuck in the writers cave it can feel all consuming. Take some time to do something other than writing or editing, for me it was getting back into yoga and watching YT videos (book hauls are surprisingly addictive).
    9. Support another author  – I believe in karma and giving back. There’s plenty of space for all of us in the writing world, so why not support an author you love by tweeting about their book, giving them a review on Amazon or Good Reads or writing to them and telling them how much you love their books.
    10. Prepare for The Call – nothing wrong with a little wishful thinking right? Have you got a website, a social media presence, any of the things you’d like to have in place when an editor calls and says those magical four words “we want your book”? Maybe it’s my inner girl scout, but I’d like to be prepared…just in case.

     

  5. A change of plans

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    So, Nano was going really well. At the end of week 1 I’d hit just under 20,000 words and the story (which I was re-writing) was flowing so much better than the original version. And then something happened which meant I needed to abandon Nano this year…

    I got another round of edits for Love en Pointe!

    My ballerina/footballer manuscript is now being edited for the third time under the guidance and advice of the amazing people at Harlequin. I have no idea if three rounds of edits for a manuscript is normal…is it? I feel like I’m inching closer to success, but the story is not quite there yet. The detailed seven page revision letter (not kidding, 7 pages of size twelve font!!) kind of freaked me out, but the suggestions were spot on in my humble opinion.

    The editor pointed out things I had been concerned about with my own work (not just for Love en Pointe but for One Last Wish and The Rules According to Gracie – details here). In fact the things I needed to work on according to Harlequin, were the exact same things that the lovely Kate Cuthbert from Escape Publishing pointed out when she asked me to revise my novella (which is now on the back burner due to these edits). So I figure when two editors tell you to look at something, it’s definitely worth your attention.

    So I’m diving back into the world of Jasmine and Grant. I decided to do a Love en Pointe Pintrest board with all my inspiration pictures, because I love being able to ‘see’ what I’m writing about.

    Kissing

     Woo hoo!! More ballerinas and footballers and kissing and stuff ♥

    Now I’ll be disappearing back into the editing cave and likely consuming copious quantities of tea and coffee to fuel my creativity. Here’s a little snippet from Love en Pointe to whet your appetite, I hope you enjoy it ♥

    “You’re doing well,” Jasmine said as they paused between repetitions. She was determined to be the consummate professional, even if it was harder to pull off than the pas de deux from Don Quixote Act 3. “I can see improvements already and it’s only your first lesson.”

    “It’s not exactly difficult,” he responded, his blue eyes meeting hers and sending a chill down her spine. His tone dismissed her praise, needling at her. “I’m bending up and down on the spot. I’ve seen two years olds master that.”

    Jasmine bristled at how he’d reduced one of the most important steps in ballet down to such a mechanical, prosaic description. Only a beef-head Aussie Rules footballer would fail to see the importance of the steps she’d taught him.

    She pursed her lips. “That’s an over simplification, don’t you think?”

    “Not really.” He crossed his arms and leant back against the barre, appraising her openly. “You can give it a fancy French name if you want, but it’s just bending your knees.”

     “Well, I never thought a career would be made out of chasing a little, red ball,” she responded, tilting her chin up at him. “But there you go.”

  6. Update and NaNoWriMo13

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    To say that life has been crazy of late would be an understatement. I hit a very busy patch with my day job, had another death in my family to deal with and received a second set of revisions for my Love en Pointe manuscript.

    All in the same week.

    In the middle of some very sad personal news, I had the opportunity to have a telephone meeting with the lovely editor in the Harlequin Mills & Boon London office to talk through a further round of edits for my manuscript. She also wanted to see how I went with a deadline and so I needed to have the edits completed in 2-3 weeks. I handed them in last Tuesday and promptly fell in a heap.

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    Now I’m getting back on my feet, am dealing with the personal stuff and preparing for the next big thing. I have my first novella out in slush submission land, and it has already received a very encouraging note from one editor with an opportunity to revise and resubmit. But I am taking a little break for editing at the moment to prepare for something very exciting…

    NaNoWriMo 2013!!

    I took part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, also simply referred to as Nano) last year where I decided on day 1 to give it a go. I didn’t “win” at Nano (meaning I didn’t reach 50,000 words) but I got well into the 30,000’s and that manuscript is Love en Pointe – the one I have with Harlequin at the moment.

    So a month of craziness can turn out something great…even, if like me, you absolutely ‘pants’ your way through it.

    This November, however, I’m rewriting a manuscript I finished earlier this year. I was ready to shelve this particular story indefinitely because it has A LOT of problems. I wrote it after my grandfather passed away in February (it’s been a rough year…needless to say) and there is far too much personal stuff going on in the story…not to mention inconsistent characters, fuzzy GMCs and arguments masquerading as banter.

    So NaNoWriMo 2013 will be my chances to have another go at writing this story. I’m keep the premise and the characters, but I am starting from a blank page. If you want to follow along or are doing NaNoWriMo as well, please feel free to add me on the NaNoWriMo website.

    Is anyone else doing NaNoWriMo this year? I’d love to hear what you’re working on currently, share in the comments below ♥

  7. Pen Name & News

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    You might have noticed the blog looks a little different now. That’s because I’ve got a band new site under my pen name; Stefanie London. So much has happened in the past few months and the weeks are flying by with frightening speed.

    Here’s the CliffsNotes version:

    • Pen name, new website and consolidation with my blog thanks to the lovely and talented Violet
    • I’ve booked tickets to attend the Romance Writers of Australia conference in August – so excited!! This will be my first conference, so I’m going to be like a kid in a candy store
    • As part of the conference I secured a Pitch Session with the amazing Sheila Hodgson of Mills and Boon London to pitch One Last Wish
    • I received a request to revise and resubmit Love en Pointe to Harlequin KISS

    The last blog post before I went on hiatus was about submitting my manuscript to Harlequin after receiving a request for a full a few months ago. Well, I received a lovely email and a word document with three pages of feedback on how I could improve the story. It also came with a request to re-submit once I’d tackled the revisions.

    I can tell you that I was possibly the happiest person alive when that email came through! I’ve never written a romance manuscript (or any other kind of manuscript) before, I’d never submitted any piece of written work to an editor and I certainly was not expecting anything other than a ‘thanks but no thanks’ email.

    Currently the manuscript is with the editor and I’m not likely to hear back for another month or so. Therefore to keep myself busy and to stop stalking my email, I’m working on One Last Wish for the August RWA Conference.  Now its just a matter of counting down the remaining 26 sleeps until I board the plane to fly to Freemantle.

    Close up a blue toned calendar page

    Anyone else going to be at RWA this year? What are you working on in the meantime?

  8. Submitting my first manuscript

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    So far in my journey I have learnt a lot of new things; like what the hell a split infinitive is. I’ve learned that editing is a lot harder than writing, that opportunity abounds when you take the time to look for it, and that taking each new step is simultaneously terrifying and rewarding.

    Today I submitted my first complete MS, Love en Pointe, after receiving a request for a full from one of the lovely editors at Harlequin (hello dream publisher!!) based on my entry into a pitch contest. (If you’re looking to pitch I highly recommend reading through the entries to see how people pitch their book, and especially read the three winning pitches to see what publishers look for.)

    It’s kind of how I imagine it would be to send your child off to their first day of kindergarten. You hope that you’ve done all you can to prepare, and pray that your baby isn’t harshly criticised. A small part of me wondered if I should keep the submission a secret…you know, just in case I get the dreaded R. But what the hell, I’m excited and proud of myself, so I’ll sing it from the rooftops.

    Anyway, this post was just to record my progress (which is kind of why I started this blog in the first place, to document my experiences) and because I have scoffed an entire ‘reward’ magnum in about four seconds so I’m high on sugar right now.

    successsuccess!